Wolf All Down! Finding the Golden Mean in Conservation and Consumption *

November 20, 2020
By Michael W. Fox BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS


Wolf All Down! Finding the Golden Mean in Conservation and Consumption

By Michael W. Fox BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS

Efforts to protect the wolf in North America have now been thwarted yet again by the U.S. Department of the Interior decision to remove the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Yet there is only a fraction, some 15% left of the original population, that once ranged across much of the continent because of human encroachment, trapping, poisoning, snaring, and shooting. Ranchers, recreational “sports” hunters and outfitters, and fur trappers are happy now.

These special interest groups are not representative of the democratic majority that has voted in favor of animal and environmental protective legislation, yet this immoral minority wins once again. I say immoral advisedly, sine there are many ranchers and hunters who respect and chose to protect the wolf, as well as the cougar and other predators. Some who protect their livestock with non-lethal methods of predator deterrence see it as the price they must pay for encroaching on wolf domain when some stock are taken by this increasingly displaced, persecuted, and starving indigenous species.

The immorality of conspicuous consumption and destruction is evident in the recent federal plan to strip protection from Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and open up all 16.7 million acres to logging and other forms of “development” in one of the world’s largest and last temperate rainforests. The legacy of America’s imperialistic invasion, genocide and violation of the rights of indigenous peoples and species lives on as we continue to wolf all down that contributes to the GNP: the gross national product. Efforts to protect the environment and threatened animal and plant species are seen as “Taking away our freedom and rights,” to quote some politicians.

No less is happening in other countries striving to live high off the hog and wolf all down as grasslands, wetlands, and forests are turned over to commodity crop monocultures and livestock and poultry-feed production, displacing and disenfranchising small family farm cooperatives and communities in the process and accelerating climate change and loss of biodiversity. When I was a boy, chicken and steaks were too expensive for my family to consume on a regular basis but are now affordable for most who regard poultry, pork, beef and dairy products as dietary staples rather than luxuries, unaware of the hidden costs, especially animal suffering in factory farms and feedlots, and the environmental and public health consequences.

The chemicals and animal drugs used in this global agribusiness industry are making us sick and harming the environment and what is left of our wildlife. Consumers are told to trust agri-science, the food they eat and the drugs they take, while science-deniers of the Climate and Extinction Crises strive to maintain business as usual especially for the fossil fuel and allied industries. In our unbridled, conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels we are indeed burning the Earth’s past as well as future.

As one who has raised and studied wolves as an ethological scientist, wining their trust and devotion and crossing the boundary of scientific objectivity to have communion with one who sang in harmony with my shakuhachi flute, I am crying now for our loss of humanity and sense of kinship with all life. This, I believe, as a veterinarian, is a sensibility without which we will never be well. No one who knows wolves, as I shared in my book The Soul of the Wolf, would ever seek to kill one as a trophy or wear their fur as some fashionable adornment.

I challenge the bioethics of wolf and all wildlife management “science” that calibrates sustainable “harvesting” quotas and acceptable “recovery” counts. (For more discussion see my review article Wildlife Management and Ecological Dysbiosis posted on www.drfoxonehealth.com). From a bioethical perspective such management is purely anthropocentric. Like sustainable farming, wildlife management must be eco-centric; Natural systems work best when we step outside, and observe rather than intervene, control, exploit and kill, and see how much needs to be healed, healthful biodiversity restored, like encouraging wolf pack expansion in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin to help prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and other cervids as well as Lyme and other tick borne diseases to humans and other animals..

The efforts of conservation and wildlife and biodiversity protection need support. Restraining order law suits and appeals are costly and take talent. Such disingenuous journalism is archaic and atavistic, if not anarchistic. The eco-tourist value of healthy wolf populations is coupled with the health of ecosystems to which wolves and other predators contribute. Predator “services” have been long documented as contributing to deer and other herbivore herd health and protection of forest habitat from over-grazing/browsing so fewer sapling trees are consumed, enabling forest regeneration, now additionally compromised by climate change.

Beyond anthropocentric religious belief, there is no science-based evidence that Nature was created for man’s exclusive use, becoming dysfunctional when so abused; or that other animals are our inferiors and are natural resources for our own use, best harvested “sustainably” ( called wise stewardship) or to be exterminated as we chose. Indigenous peoples like the Ojibwe have a very different hunting ethic and regard for wolves, and decry this de-listing. For them, and others who share their worldview, the wolf is a totemic species, a sacred presence in the life-community worthy of equal and fair consideration.

Between the Golden Rule and the Rule of Gold is the Delphic Golden Mean. Where, in a society of conspicuous consumption, destruction, obesity, cancer and other “diseases of civilization” do we chose to live within this mean? And respect the Golden Rule in finding that ethical point in our lives and politics where lies the fate of the wolf and all we embrace. The choice is ultimately ours and we can all surely rise above Nobel Prize Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer’s conclusion that "In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka."


Chronic Wasting Disease: Anthropogenic? Containable?

By Michael W. Fox BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS

From the perspective of One Health (1) dysfunctional ecosystems with wild animal and plant species imbalances and sub-optimal regulatory biodiversity (2) can put public health and the health of domestic animals at risk (3). Predator “control” and other wildlife management practices, coupled with human and livestock encroachment in ever-increasing numbers, have intensified dysbiosis and climate change from continent to continent.(4) Correcting such anthropogenic health problems with vaccines, pesticides, antibiotics and other drugs, even genetic engineering biotechnologies, while ignoring preventive measures, have limited medical and veterinary progress for decades.(5).Such limitations have failed to prevent the spread of zoonoses such as Lyme disease, and the emergence of Chronic Wasting Disease in N. America in particular where there is sub-optimal biodiversity and lack of predators ( 6) and insectivores in the dystrophic ecosystems.  

According to the U.S.  Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first identified in captive mule deer in the late 1960s in Colorado and in wild deer in 1981. By the 1990s, it had been reported in surrounding areas in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Since 2000, the area known to be affected by CWD in free-ranging animals has increased to at least 24 states, including states in the Midwest, Southwest, and limited areas on the East Coast. It is possible that CWD may also occur in other states without strong animal surveillance systems. Once CWD is established in an area, the risk can remain for a long time in the environment. The affected areas are likely to continue to expand. (7). Late symptoms of CWD in cervids (deer, elk, moose and big horn sheep) are horrific. Infected animals often tremble on splayed legs and have trouble standing. They drool and eat continuously but continually waste away. Many are hyper- excitable and nervous. Researchers call them “droopy droolers.” Deer farms may be a major source of this disease, once a rare disease of Colorado mule deer.

It is not unlike the Mad Cow disease which was spread by putting cattle remains including prion-loaded brain and spinal cord tissues into cattle feed that decimated the U.K’s cattle industry and infected people consuming contaminated meat who developed Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. “It is probable that human cases of CWD associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,” Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease and Research Prevention, warned lawmakers at the Minnesota Capitol Feb 7, 2019. Some primate species fed CWD infected deer meat were found to develop spongioform encepalopathy brain lesions, (8) raising the legitimate fear of cross-species infection from deer and other infected cervids to human consumers.   The possibility of spread to livestock from infective deer, soil and vegetation (that could have been the original source of cervid infection decades ago) is also considerable.

Prions are self-replicating protein molecules that are present in humans and other animals, their functions being not yet fully determined beyond playing some role in normalizing neuron function. Generally speaking, prion diseases may be infectious, hereditary or occur sporadically/spontaneously. Disease arises when the normal prion protein mutates to the diseased variant, which differs from the healthy prion proteins by its change in structure. The body's cells have difficulty in breaking down this prion protein due to its different structure, and it therefore accumulates. What causes them to become malformed like a mutation, has not yet been determined. They are passed out in bodily fluids and are in the soil and vegetation and are resistant to conventional methods of sterilization. Crows and ravens, being carrion-eaters, could spread CWD along with blood sucking mosquitoes, ticks and other insects feeding off infected cervids. Infective prions have been found in dust and may be spread also by wind currents.  

Practices that facilitate CWD prion contamination and accumulation include deer and elk farming, mineral licks and planting feed for deer by private land-owning deer hunters. Normal prions can be affected by metals (9), possibly being damaged by hunters’ lead shot when ingested by deer or in their bodies after surviving after being shot. Twenty million metric tons of lead bullets were fired in the United States in the 20th century (10).  Since EMFs can cause prion damage (11) the electromagnetic fields and non-ionizing radiation from cell phone towers and power lines may also cause prion malformations. Also, widely used herbicides, Monsanto’s “Roundup” (glyphosate) in particular, which is a chelating agent (12), may damage prions (13) and influence the bioavailability of manganese (14), an oxide of which destroys prions (15). This could facilitate prion survival and multiplication in contaminated soils. Notably, various prions are destroyed in soils with high humic acid content (16). Prions bind to montmorillonite and whole soils, remain orally infectious, and, in most cases, increased the oral transmission of disease compared to the unbound agent. Certain soils may therefore contribute to environmental spread of CWD by increasing the transmissibility of small amounts of infectious agent in the environment. (17). Livestock feed high in manganese and soils high in manganese and low in copper and zinc, along with other environmental have been proposed as potential factors in the genesis of bovine encephalopathy and related CJ disease in humans (18)

Wolves, Mountain lions, Grizzly bears and Coyote packs, probably immune after generations of co-evolution, could help control this disease by killing diseased cervids. These apex predators have been persecuted and exterminated for centuries. Their protection and reintroduction across states and provinces where CWD has been found would help reduce this epidemic (19, 20) and best serve the public interest, and also with Lyme disease mitigation (21). CWD is not going to go away and is most likely a product of centuries of land uses causing ecological damage, reducing natural disease-controls of optimal biodiversity (22). Practices that facilitate CWD prion contamination and accumulation include deer and elk farming, mineral licks and planting feed for deer on private land and hunting preserves all need to be curtailed. Restoration and maintenance of healthy biodiversity calls for protection of predators large and small (23) especially from being killed by hunters, trappers, State wildlife “game” management for deer and elk hunters and by the non-sustainable livestock industry.

According to the Coloradoan newspaper (24) veterinarian Dr.Mike Miller, Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Wildlife Health Program Leader said “the best hope now is managing the disease so it doesn’t kill deer and elk in such large numbers that herds are reduced to sizes too low to allow hunting.”  But in my opinion as a veterinarian, extensive degradation of wildlands coupled with ecological mismanagement have contributed to the spread of insect-borne diseases such as Lyme and West Nile, and to Chronic Wasting Disease in deer, moose and elk now all spreading across much of the U.S. and in Canada along with other zoonotic and “emergent” diseases ( 25). Drastic culling of CWD infected and exposed animals in contaminated areas and investing in vaccine development go in the wrong direction. The open season and no-license needed in Minnesota and other states to kill coyotes, weasels, skunks, other small mammals, carrion-eaters like crows, and seasonal killing of insectivorous “game” birds and hunting and trapping of “small game and furbearers”--- mink, pine marten, fisher, beaver, otter, bobcat, raccoon, red and grey fox, bear and badger---should all be closed to allow the recovery of disease-containing and suppressing biodiversity. It is recognized that pathogens generally become less virulent or are destroyed after passage through resistant hosts, ---adapted, immunocompetent species and individuals---and this may hold true as well for prions.


The newspaper published the following timeline of the spread from what some believe to be the epicenter at Colorado State University's Foothills Campus outside Fort Collins because research was also going on with sheep infected with a similar prion disease called Scrapie, and had been in the same pen as the research-held mule deer who developed CWD. The infective prions might or might not have crossed the species barrier. The mule deer could have already been infected before they were brought to the facility from various parts of Colorado.

Chronic wasting disease timeline

1967: Wasting syndrome is observed in captive mule deer at the Colorado State University wildlife research facility in west Fort Collins.

1975−81: Wasting syndrome is observed in Toronto Zoo mule deer transferred from the Denver Zoo.

1979: Recognized in captive mule deer at Wyoming wildlife research facility.

1981: Detected in wild elk in Colorado.

1985: Detected in wild mule deer in Colorado and Wyoming.

1996: Detected in a captive elk farm in Saskatchewan; 38 other linked farms eventually found positive.

1997: Detected in captive elk facilities in South Dakota.

1998: Detected in captive elk facilities in Montana and Oklahoma.

1999: World Health Organization indicates no evidence CWD is transmissible to humans, but advises that exposure should be avoided.

2000: Detected in wild mule deer in Nebraska and Saskatchewan.

2002: Colorado establishes guidelines to minimize transport of high-risk carcass materials. First International CWD Symposium is held in Denver.

2002: Detected in captive elk in Minnesota, wild and captive white-tailed deer in Wisconsin and Illinois, mule deer in New Mexico and elk in South Dakota.

2003: Detected in wild mule deer in Utah.

2004: Detected in wild elk in New Mexico.

2005: Detected in moose in Colorado.

2008: Research indicates CWD may be a plausible explanation for local deer population declines in Colorado.

2010: Detected in captive white-tailed deer in Missouri and wild white-tailed deer in North Dakota and Virginia.

2016: Detected in wild elk and white-tailed deer in Arkansas and wild reindeer in Norway.


Postscript 2/25/19

Minn. lawmakers propose bills to better contain CWD

In Minnesota, the state animal health board quarantines captive cervid farms where chronic wasting disease is found, then the USDA usually buys and depopulates the herd, but farms are not required to sell to the USDA, says Minnesota Board of Animal Health veterinarian Mackenzie Reberg. An infected wild deer was found near a farm that had refused to depopulate, prompting state lawmakers to propose several bills aimed at strengthening CWD containment.

Minnesota Public Radio (2/22) 


1. See  www.onehealthinitiative.com and www.onehealthcommission.org )

2.Keesing F, Holt R D, Ostfeld R S. Effects of species diversity on disease risk. Ecol. Lett 2006; 9:485–498

3. Patz J, Daszak P, Tabor G, et al. Unhealthy landscapes: Policy recommendations on land use change and infectious disease emergence. Environ Health Perspect 2004; 112: 1092–1098.

4. Khasnis AA, Nettleman MD. Global warming and infectious disease. Arch. Med. Res.2005; 36: 689–96

5. Fox, M.W., The One Health: Human Disease, Veterinary Responsibilities and Our Animal and Environmental Relationships. AHVMA Journal, 2018, 53: 26-31.

6. Levi, Taal, et al.  Deer, predators, and the emergence of Lyme disease  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jul 3; 109(27): 10942–10947.

7. For more details visit https://www.cdc.gov/prions/cwd/occurrence.html See also USGS. 2018. Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disease in North America. February 2018. https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/distribution-chronic-wasting-disease-north-america-february-2018.

 8. Race, Brent et al Chronic Wasting Disease Agents in Nonhuman Primates .    Emerg Infect Dis. 2014 May; 20(5): 833–837. doi: 10.3201/eid2005.130778

9. Singh N, Das D, Singh A, Mohan ML. Prion Protein and Metal Interaction: Physiological and Pathological Implications. In Tatzelt J.2010 The Prion Protein. Savanna Press. ISBN 978-0954333522.

10. Virginia Tech. "Do Lead Bullets Continue To Be A Hazard After They Land?". ScienceDaily, 5 November 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041104005801.htm>.

11. Lian HY, Lin KW, Yang C, Cai P. Generation and propagation of yeast prion [URE3] are elevated under electromagnetic field. Cell Stress Chaperones. 2018 Jul;23(4):581-594. doi: 10.1007/s12192-017-0867-9. Epub 2017 Dec 6

12. Mertens, M et al Glyphosate, a chelating agent—relevant for ecological risk assessment? Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018; 25(6): 5298–5317.

11. Samsel, S. and Seneff S., Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases III: Manganese, neurological diseases, and associated pathologies Surg Neurol Int. 2015; 6: 45.Published online 2015 Mar 24. doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.153876

14. Samsel, S. and Seneff S., Glyphosate pathways to modern diseases VI: Prions, amyloidoses and autoimmune neurological diseases Anthony Samsel1 and Stephanie Seneff 2, Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry · March 2017

15. Russo, F., et al Pathogenic Prion Protein Is Degraded by a Manganese Oxide Mineral Found in Soils Journal of General Virology 90(Pt 1):275-80 · January 2009

16. Kuznetsova,A. et al Soil humic acids degrade CWD prions and reduce infectivity PLoS Pathog. Nov. 29,2018 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1007414

17.. Johnson, C.J.  et al Oral Transmissibility of Prion Disease Is Enhanced by Binding to Soil Particles PLoS Pathog. 2007 Jul; 3(7): e93.Published online 2007 Jul 6. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.0030093

18. Purdy https://www.ourcivilisation.com/madcow/index.htm ”Mad Cow” Disease by Mark Purdey, accessed March 1st 2019

19. Krumm CE, Conner MM, Hobbs NT, Hunter DO, Miller MW. Mountain lions prey selectively on prion-infected mule deer.  Biol Lett. 2010 Apr 23;6(2):209-11. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0742. Epub 2009 Oct 28.

20. Hobbs, N. T., A Model Analysis of Effects of Wolf Predation on Prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease in Elk Populations of Rocky Mountain National Park  4/12/2006


21.Hofmeester TR, Jansen PA, Wijnen HJ, Coipan EC, Fonville M, Prins HHT, Sprong H, van Wieren SE. 2017 Cascading effects of predator activity on tick-borne disease risk. Proc. R. Soc. B 284: 20170453. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.0453

22.Farnsworth, M.L., L.L. Wolfe, N.T. Hobbs, K.P. Burnham, E.S. Williams, D.M Theobald, M.M. Conner, and M.W. Miller. 2005. Human Land Use Influences Chronic Wasting Disease Prevalence in Mule Deer. Ecological Applications 15: 119–126.

23. Wild, Margaret A., N. Thompson Hobbs, Mark S. Graham, and Michael W. Miller. 2011. The Role of Predation in Disease Control: A Comparison of Selective and Nonselective Removal on Prion Disease Dynamics in Deer. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 47(1):78–93.

24. https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2018/08/23/cdc-tse-mad-cow-chronic-wasting-disease-linked-fort-collins/878097002/

25. Fox, M.W., 2018. The One Health: Human Disease, Veterinary Responsibilities and Our Animal and Environmental Relationships. AHVMA Journal, 53: 26-31.